RAVENS RECAP: MANDATORY OTA’S DAY 2

Camp Notes RAVENS RECAP: MANDATORY OTA’S DAY 2

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Under partly cloudy skies and moderate temps in the high 70’s, the Ravens took the field during Day 2 of their first set of mandatory OTA’s.  Steve McNair’s day didn’t start out well.  After stretching exercises the first two exchanges from center between McNair and Flynn fell to the ground.  McNair would later rebound and get it going in a big way. 
 
Mark Clayton returned to the practice field after missing yesterday’s OTA’s due to personal reasons.  David Pittman (hamstring) and Dan Cody (knee) were both held out and most expect the pair to rest until training camp gets under way.  Dennis Haley did not practice nor did Mike Smith who was in attendance but as an observer only.
 
Jonathan Ogden was in the weight room for most of the practice but emerged later on to take in the OTA’s but he too was just an observer.  He greeted the media after practice and had this to say about his decision to return for his 12th season:
 
“I felt like I could do some good – one more year here at least.  It wasn’t like it was a long, hard, drawn out process.  I just had to decide if I wanted to play football enough.  This is 12 years coming up and that’s a long time not to mention college and high school.  So you’ve got to examine, ‘Do I want to do it still.’  And I came to the conclusion that it still can be fun and I still want to do it so come on back and give it a shot.”
 
As practice began the individual units were put through the paces.  To give you a visual of what the media can take in, the Ravens have three fields behind the complex.  Two fields run parallel and beyond the end zones of each field running perpendicular is the third field.  At the far side of that third field is where the media congregates as determined by the team.  The units that use that field are the offense and the defensive backs.  That field is also used for all drills requiring participation by the offense and defense.  The defensive linemen and linebackers participate in unit drills about 100 yards from where the media is asked to stand and that is why reporting on those units is difficult when they are not engaged in offensive/defensive activities.
 
The receiving corps is usually closest to the media and it’s been interesting watching the hands on coaching of Mike Johnson who has earned the respect of his group.  Today he fired low passes to his guys as they ran crossing routes from the left/far sideline.  He instructed his troops to “bend at the knees, not at the waist.” 
 
Rick Neuheisel spent a good portion of the morning  instructing the quarterbacks and receivers to find holes and soft spots in zone coverages.  The trajectory of the pass and the location of the pass along the hash marks were emphasized.  Passes by design were thrown into the hole between the safety and corner in a Cover 2 and slightly behind the receiver to give the receiver an edge particularly if they could get the defender to turn their back to the quarterback.
 
Neuheisel also ran the two groupings through some red zone plays intended to flood zones and gain single coverage on the outside with throws intended for the back pylon.
 

Per usual the team broke out into one on one drills with the WR’s going up against CB’s; TE’s and RB’s v. LB’s and Safeties.  Here’s a snapshot of what happened:
 
Receiver
Defender
Advantage
Comments
Clayton
Prude
Clayton
Deep TD pass down right sideline (McNair) D. Thurman to Prude: "He’s running, you’re not!"
Bryant
Ivy
Bryant
(McNair)
Mason
Oglesby
Mason
Rick Neuheisel to the pair: "Good timing!" (McNair)
Linson
Reed
Linson
(McNair)
Darling
Maze
Darling
D. Thurman to Maze: "Nice job — FINISH!" (McNair)
Ballantyne
Landry
Ballantyne
(Finnerty)
Williams
Prude
Williams       
Very nice overhead catch.  Neuheisel to D-Will: "Great release!"
Willis
Gaston
Willis
(McNair)
Clayton
Maze
Clayton
Good throw from Smith
Bryant
Ivy
Bryant
Neuheisel: "You’re competing! Nice job!" (Smith)
Mason
Prude
Mason
(McNair)
Linson
Reed
Linson
Reed nearly jumps and picks Smith’s pass; Linson makes physical catch
Darling
Oglesby
Darling
From McNair on a fly route for the score.  Neuheisel shouts, "TOUCHDOWN BALTIMORE!"
Williams
Maze
Williams
TD toss from McNair
Darling
Prude
Darling
Pass interference; Prude beaten badly
Willis
Gaston
Willis
(Smith)
Mason
Prude
Mason
Prude using hands way too much beyond 5 yards (McNair)
 

Shortly after the daily one on ones, the full team offense took on the full team defense with first down plays and then some third down conversion opportunities.
 
Situation
Play
Comments
1st & 10
McNair to Clayton, 15 yds
 
1st & 10
McNair to Williams incomplete
Slightly out of sync on deep sideline timing route
1st & 10
McNair to Heap 25 yards
McNair (shotgun) draws defense off with hard count
1st & 10
McNair to Mason 8 yards
Nice hot route read with yards after the catch available if real game
3rd & 2
McNair to Sypniewski 4 yards
 
3rd & 7
Draw to Cory Ross
Stopped after gain of 2
1st & 10
Boller from shotgun to Darling (Sapp)
Coaches praise Darling’s route
1st & 10       
Boller pulls it down and runs with gaping space in the middle of field
 
3rd & 4
Direct snap to Musa Smith
Goes for first down (see Notes)
1st & 10   
Troy Smith to Freeman
5 yards before whistle plus available y.a.c.
 
The 7 on 7 drills unfolded as follows:
 
Play
Comments
McNair to Mason 15 yards
Nice leaping sideline catch
McNair to Mason 5 yards
Available y.a.c.
McNair to Clayton        
Deep sideline route incomplete (Rolle)
McNair to Darling 20 yards
Nice route and good throw
Boller to Sypniewski 5 yards
 
Boller to Ross, dump off for a couple
 
Boller to Ballantyne, dump off pass
 
Finnerty to Freeman, 30 yards
nice throw and catch to spot in zone
Finnerty to Ballantyne, 10 yards
completed despite tight coverage
 
The team ran a second series of 11 on 11 plays.  Ray Lewis who has been very enthusiastic the past couple of days, went into the offensive huddle and it took a while before Brian Billick even noticed.  When Ray bailed out Billick said, “You were the guy we were going to.”
 
After the jovial exchange ended play resumed as follows:

 
Play
Comments
McNair sacked
 
McNair dumps off to Musa Smith
Great read from Landry as Suggs chants, "Hit his ass!"
McNair to Heap 25 yards
McNair (shotgun) draws defense off with hard count
Boller screen pass
Nearly picked off by Gary Stills
Boller to Bryant 20 yards
Soft spot in Cover 2 along right hash
Smith dirts ball on aborted screen
 
Smith to Darling
Nice throw and read on hot route
Smith to Linson, 15 yards
 
 

Other notes and observations: The Ravens plan on using a number of possible combinations on the offensive line leading right into the first game against the Bengals to determine which is best.  The first unit (when Ogden returns to practice) from left tackle to right tackle appears to be: Ogden-J. Brown-Flynn-Chester-Terry.  For the moment Mike Kracalik is lining up in Ogden’s spot…During some situational drills with his unit, the much lighter and more nimble Rex Ryan handled the duties of scout QB.  Rex is lighter on his feet than former Raven QB Scott Mitchell and his arm is a tad weaker than Chris Redman’s…Terrell Suggs was quite vocal as was Ray Lewis today as usual.  As the defense readied itself in full team action, Suggs looked over at Antwan Barnes, flexed his right bicep, pointed at it and said, “Hey rookie!”  Later on after Gary Stills dropped a possible interception Suggs shouted from the sidelines, “Gary, I thought you said you had better hands than us!”…Ray Lewis was chatty opening up the full team drills, skipping on to the field exclaiming, “Yeah McNine…you know who I am!”…Devard Darling was singled out by special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr. for effectively fighting through a double press when he lined up as a gunner on the punt team…Gansz practiced a fake punt and direct snap to the upback (in this case Greg Pruitt, Jr.) who ran around the right edge…
 
The second team defense at this time is noticeably better than the second unit offense led by Kyle Boller…Towards the end of the first sequence of 11 on 11 drills with Kyle Boller in the shotgun facing a third and four, the snap slipped out of back up center’s Ikechuku Ndukwe’s hands and it popped out well short of Boller.  Musa Smith was heads up on the play and caught the ball in mid air and advanced for the first down.  Billick asked, "What happened?"  After being informed of Smith’s advance for a first down Billick quipped, "I love it.  Just the way we designed it."…Almost like an omen, a buzzard circled over the complex just prior to the last sequence of full team intersquad plays normally dominated by the defense (except today when McNair shined during the first round of 11 on 11).  No truth to the rumor that the buzzard was wearing number 52.

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Tony Lombardi

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